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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  December 18, 2014 9:30am-10:01am EST

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a large sum of money. if it wants, it can continue on that and the benefits of immense. >> turning their backs on a half century of u.s.-cuba relations, presidents barack obama and raul castro announce that their two countries are on their way to normal relations. that's inside story. >> hello, i'm ray suarez. one of the final chapters of the cold war, two countries glare at
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each other across the florida state just moved a lot closer to resolution. president obama extolled engagement over confrontation promised to work with congress to end the laws which sought to punish and isolate the island of cuba, a close american neighbor and communist country for more than 50 years. it sounds like a lot is going to change, and very, very quickly. >> today we're making these changes because it is the right thing to do. to the cuban people america extends a hand of friendship. some of you have looked to us as a source of hope. we will continue to shine a light of freedom. we can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self determination. >> pratt barac president barack obama said it would restore full diplomatic relations with cuba,
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all of it a dramatic change in a policy that has not moved in 50 years. and in the president's view has oh done nothing to change the communist country for the better. the news was met with swift condemnation from some u.s. lawmakers. >> time and again the cuban government has manipulated every single concession this administration has made to their advantage. the number one goal of the cuban government and this regime is to remain in power. everything we do will be turned by them for a mechanism of remaining in power. the cuban government will never allow any changes on the island that will threaten their ability to maintain their grip on power. we've seen that time and time again. you're going to see that in the months and years to come. >> senator marco rubio is a cuban-american. >> my sense is that i'll be a chairman of foreign relations and i anticipate we'll have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you're going to
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get an ambassador nominated and how you're going to get an embassy funded. >> senator menendez also has cuban roots. >> with the collapse of the venezuelan economy, cuba is losing it's main benefactor, but now will receive the support of the united states, the greatest democracy in the world. it's a reward that a totalitarian regime does not deserve. >> the speaker of the house john boehner issued this statement. relations with the castro regime should not be revisited let alone normalized until the cuban people enjoy freedom and not one second sooner. much of what the president denounced today he can do by executive order, but lifting the economic embargo that's encircled cuba for more than 50 years will take an act of congress. >> we're calling on cuba to unleash the potential on
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11 million cubans on their political, social and economic activities. in that spirit we should not allow u.s. sanctions to add to the burden of cuban citizens that we seek to help. >> for its part cuba has committed to opening up the internet to its people and looks to establish relationships with the red cross and the united nations. president raul castro spoke of the deal today from havana. >> in recognizing that we have profound differences in the areas of national sovereignty, democracy, ruin rights, and foreign policy, i reaffirm our willingness to discuss all these matters. >> the announcement comes hours after the release of u.s. contractors alan gross from a cuban prison on humanitarian grounds, the president said. his health had been deteriorating since he was jailed in. >> you i'm incredibly blessed finally to have the freedom to resume a positive and
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constructive life. five and a half decades of history show us that such belligerent s inhibit better judgment. two wrongs do not make a right. i truly hope we'll get beyond these blew actually belligeren beyond these belligerent policies. >> although not called a prisoner swap, three prisoners held in the u.s. were released. the three were part of what was call the cuban five who were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage in 2001. the other two agents were sent back to cuba in 2013 and 2014. in cuba the five are national heroes. their faces can be seen on posters like these all across the country.
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>> catching up with the remarkable series of events that remade cuban american relations in the space of one morning this time on the program. with us, ambassador carman romaline. and maria , director of latin america and latino studies in chicago, and adol pho franco. at the core of the president's reasoning, are we changing the policy because it just didn't work, is he right? >> i disagree with that. i think the policy has worked in many ways, that's because it's been a thorn in castro's side. the fact that alan gross was in prison in the first place has been the cuban government's persistent
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pre-occupation that was managed under george w. bush. people made these arguments in the 1970's, and ronald reagan had a completely different view. i think the principles need to be defended. i'm baffled as to why the president has taken this action when nothing has changed in cuba. they've released a hostage in my opinion they never should have taken in prisoner. we released three who are incarcerated that were put in jail through our system, our legal system, and they were spice and involved in the death of american citizens. so john kerry said it about six months ago before the house foreign affairs committee. there is no we have sently and no reason to have the prisoner exchange. and he was right there, and the president took the other point of view. i'm baffled why we're rewarding an oppressive regime
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overnight. >> we also released a long-time american asset in cuba, who has been in prison for the last 20 years. so they want us to look at that as well. and not consider the gross release as a swap, is that a fair point? >> that's partly a fair point, but just that they have one of our assets, that is not a basis upon which to talk about extending credits to the castro government, non-cash sales of u.s. goods, normalization relations imply--not imply but talk about the ability of americans spending money in cuba, and so a series of things that the president took unilaterally when the basis of the helms burton law, which i'm sure will be discussed, are premised on fundamental changes taken in cuba. where is the freedom of expression. where are the labor unions? >> we'll talk about helm s-burton
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later as you anticipate. professor torres, let me ask you the same question. whewhen the president said that we're changing the policy because the old regime didn't work, was he right? >> well, it hasn't worked. but more to the point, why now. i do not think that this is a policy necessarily awarding the cuban government. i think it's aime aimed at ending bloodshed in cuba. the generals are more isolated than ever, and a continued pressure on a very precarious situation politically and economically can have a bad ending, so i think that offering a glimmer of hope of what could be an encouragement for a more peaceful transition is absolutely a positive step to take. >> ambassador. cuba has been excluded from the business of the oas. >> yes, they have. >> since 1962. >> yes, they have. >> there you were representing
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the united states in an international organization, and a country that was not there bass taking a lot of your band width? >> an awful a lot of the band width. >> i have to make a point, though, at the oas general assembly in 2008--e cues me, 2009, there was a resolution passed that allowed cuba to go back to the oas if they met the practices and principles of the oas charter and other charters of the organization of america. so that door was open at that time. cuba. >> they were renouncing their political system. >> absolutely. yes, it has taken a tremendous amount of time, especially in the summits of the americ americas' process, where all the member states except for canada, kept insisting that cuba had to be present.
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and without cuba there would be no summit. >> was this a country refining favor in the western hemisphere? >> absolutely. absolutely. because of a case in point the summit of the americas in cartagena, colombia, to an delegation didn't for canada denounced the united states, denounced our imperialism, and trying to keep cuba as this little colony, everyone except canada. it took up all the oxygen out of that room where we never got to serious discussions that were presented by our hosts the colombians. >> there is another summit coming up. is cuba going to be seated? >> absolutely. the president of panama from when he was inaugurated invited them to come to the summit. you know, i think it goes back to perhaps what was said, it's more than just what is happening right now.
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it's what is going to happen in the next few months. does the president go and sit next to raul castro or be in the same room as raul castro, or does the united states not go. a summit without the united states is not a summit. >> cuba coming in from the cold. we'll be back with more "inside story" after a short break. as we've mentioned there is still plenty of things that has to be worked out. this is not a done deal. raul castro said as much in his address. there is much more work that needs to be done to make cuba more in the ice of u.s. policy.
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>> i certainly wouldn't want to trade places with him on this glorious day.
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>> welcome back to inside story on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. that's american contractor alan gross back in the united states cuba. in his striking announcement on the u.s.-cuban relations, the president of the united states acknowledged there was plenty he could not do on his own. where is he was pushed to do as much as he can to range the political. there is still a lot that remains to be done before you would pronounce the american cuban relations to be like those in other nations in the region, would you? >> with the, the helms burton codified a lot of the embargo, and in fact, there was a lot of discussion at that point in time that that was congress overstepping it's boundaries. i think there are important aspects that can be opened up. i think that the president is looking at those whether it's
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more travel, whether it's how you count credit, the ability to do car credit cards, etc. the other part we have to see is the ball is now in cuba's court. to the extent that history has taught us anything about this particular government, every time we get closer to some more normal relationship cuba does something that sabotages that. by putting the ball in their court, i think that takes the threat that it's the united states away. not that people in cuba don't understand that the cuban government has a role in this, but the rhetorical part has been taken away. that's an important step. >> are there dimensions of this embargo that really make it not that embargo-y.
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one of the largest suppliers of protein is in the cuban diet is the american farmer. >> yes, but they're cash sales. now the ability is going to be supposedly through credit sales. i have to tell you that-- >> does that give away to cuba for the american. >> it's a give away to cuba. because cuba in the ratings of credit worthy iness is 178th. the only country lower is north korea. the proves professor was pressing in this. i forther forecast a cuban incident, and i do quibble with a couple of things. title nine of helms burton precise ly prohibit these types
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of credits from taking place. president clinton signed this bill into law, and if anybody is exceeding it, in my view, it's the president of the united states. lastly i have a lot of respect for the ambassador because she served our country so magnificently, but she knows these latin american governments they signed the charter. they're the ones who put the conditions on cuba. why don't they revisit the charter of 2001 if they think that the standards of holding up democracy should not apply to cuba? i think when we look at this objectively, ray, this is a huge win for cuba. and it's a huge loss for democracy, and it's a huge loss for the cuban people. >> we'll get back to that in a minute. but let me have the ambassador respond to some of your points. we heard senator rubio speculating on how he would block any funding for an embassy and ambassador, can he do that?
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>> yes, he can. the senate has to confirm any ambassador. so the presentation of a candidate to be--the nomination of a candidate to cuba, i can't see it would get very far certainly in the short term. as far as the funding of an embassy, there is a very large cuban interest in havana. >> and it's very large and very active. so from that perspective that wouldn't change much or than changing it and naming it an embassy. yes, the congress could certainly cut funds. that--that is part of their power. >> what about adolpho franco's point. other countries in the hemisphere are not playing by the rules they made. >> no, they are not. that's the reality-- the multilateral situation in the hemisphere.
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in cartagena every person supported cuba coming back despite very heated exchanges on demanding that they adhere to the principles to the charter , so it was just a waste of air to having that discussion because they washed their hands. >> professor torres, what significance is it that we hear really strong , vehement republican rejection of the new policy from the speaker of the house, from cuban american members of the united states senate, from other leaders in the republican party? >> well, i would say one is that i think they're disconnected even from the cuban american community because i think if you look at the voting pattern, they voted for barack obama even when he ran for senate he said he was going to do this. i think there is a disconnect in
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that small group. we've seen this in immigration. we've seen this in obamacare and in almost everything that the white house has tried to do, and frankly, i mean, a lot of things--i've been critical, as you know, ray, but on this one i think he's taking steps that are not just sort of this historical sweep of the end of the cold war, that, too, i think the situation in cuba is very dangerous. and i think they're responding, and we will be able to look at this in several months to see that impact is one of lessoning tension, not necessarily putting--you know, the generals live very well in cuba. i think this is aimed at multiple factors, including bringing some kind of support and some oxygen since we're using that word, in to the possibilities of peaceful
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transitions, not blood y response. >> that's an interesting theory but i don't see any evidence of it. i would argue to the contrary that what the president is doing in my view since cuba is such a tightly controlled society is that it's pumping oxygen into the castro regime and repression. the president did not allude to any such thing. and i never saw any evidence of it. we see evidence of 54 years of sustained repression on the island. i don't see it. i don't see the issue being partisan. i don't think senator menendez is a republican. senator nelson of florida is not a republican. >> but he is a floridian. >> but that is to allude to the fact that cuban-americans are democratic and they read it wrong. i think the president is very much against what they have done. >> florida senator marco rubio delivered a blistering critique
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saying that the u.s. conceded plenty and got nothing in return from the cuban government. how much will life change for the average cuban as a result of the new american policy? stay with us. >> the stream, >> your digital community >> you pick the hot topics and express your thoughts the stream it's your chance to join the conversation only on al jazeera america
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>> cubans have a saying, it's not easy. today the united states wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary cubans a little easier, more free, more prosperous. >> you're watching "inside story" on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. the block said is the u.s. embargo is called in cuba in attempt to isolate the island. it has certainly had an impact on the cuban economy. a neighbor permanently cut off, but cubans able to trade with the rest of the world stayed poor. still with us, ambassador to the american states. and director of latin america
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and latino studies at the university of illinois in chicago. professor, that's one of the nubs of the argument. that the embargo kept cubans poor, and other people say, mm-hmm, even when rich countries could trade with them, another way, france, britain, spain, germany, they stayed poor. >> i think that the embargo obviously has had an impact, but i think in the last 20 years it's been more the cuban government's policies as long the embargo is there the cuban government can blame the embargo. take that excuse away and you'll see the emperor's clothes are gone. one of the things that we're looking at right now there has been an up tick of people living cuba. this is not the moment that i think cuba can resolve its issues by opening up a flood gate of immigrants. i think the united states is
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responding to this. i was in cuba a year ago, and the level of discontent and the level of people speaking about even beheading generals was very, very open. i think that we are living and looking at this precarious situation, hopefully what this will do is that it will at least put the ball in the cuban government's court, and i think the president said they're not letting up in terms of saying that it's important to respect human rights, to open up the economy, and to allow families to work with each other. >> ambassador, apart from the optics and rewarding or not rewarding the regime do political makers worry about rafters coming on to the florida shore and there are thousands-- >> absolutely. there are a lot of considerations that people discuss when discussing changes and "n" policy. i think there will be a movement
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of people if the doors are hope. however, i think with a possible change--with the change in policy more information getting to the island, people hopefully, and maybe this is me being optimistic, involvement of civil society in daily lives maybe some of those fears could be allayed. >> do you oppose the policy? what would you like to see happen. >> i would not want to see any of these policies implemented. what you woul i would like to see is a tightening. >> i hope it's not off the table in two years. i think the president exceeded his authority. now reality being what it is today i would hope that the president, to answer your question directly, the president now make serious demands on the cuban government for changes before he continues down that path. that's important to see one of the things, ambassador, was the
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april summit. he made mention of civil society being present, i don't know what civil society mean, but i hope the president demands dissidents at the table of the castro regime. >> secretary kerry made mention in his recent trip that that it will be an opportunity to bring our values, human rights, human law, freedom of expression to the summit and demand that they invite them as well. this is an opportunity, that's what secretary kerry said today as well. >> ambassador, professor, adolfo franco, good to see you all. thanks for being with us. join us next time in washington, i'm ray suarez.
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